Hoping to fight violent crime through brain researchA researcher at UW-Madison hopes the evidence from the brain scans of convicted psychopaths at a Wisconsin prison may someday lead to effective treatment for a disorder that often leads to violent crimes.
By: By Gilman Halsted, Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
A researcher at UW-Madison hopes the evidence from the brain scans of convicted psychopaths at a Wisconsin prison may someday lead to effective treatment for a disorder that often leads to violent crimes.
In a bus equipped with an MRI machine parked at the Fox Lake prison psychiatry professor Mike Koenigs has been scanning the brains of inmates. What he's found he says is in the brains of inmates who score high on an interview questionnaire designed to diagnose psychopaths, there are some crucial connections missing in the areas of the brain's lower prefrontal cortex, "If we look in areas that we know to give primary sensory or motor functions like in visual cortex or auditory cortex they have normal connectivity in those networks. It seems to be particularly degraded in these attention related networks. "
Koenigs says those are the areas of the brain associated with decisions about reward or punishment for a particular behavior. There's still not enough data to allow a defense attorney to go into court and prove that a particular offender committed a crime because of this brain anomaly. But Koenigs says he will continue scanning the brains of more inmates with the hope that the result will someday lead to a treatment, "What I hope is that we can say look here is the bad end result of some process of psychosocial slash neurobiological development. Can we trace this back in time to where we can intervene effectively."
Koenigs says reaching that point will require scanning the brains of juvenile offenders and looking for the same kinds of abnormalities now being found in the brains of adult offenders. He believes as the amount of solid data increases, brain scan evidence will soon begin to find its way into the court room to determine guilt or innocence.